Laughter is probably one of the most underappreciated tools available to those in early recovery. This physical reaction has medicinal effects, and there is a great deal of truth to the old saying that ‘laughter is the best medicine’. Here are just five reasons why you might want to make laughter a key part of your recovery path.
If you are prone to feeling anxious, it could mean that your body is in a state of high alert much of the time. This is because anxiety triggers the ‘fight or flight’ response. Chronic anxiety can suck all of the joy out of recovery, being bad for both your physical and mental health. Laughter has a positive effect on your body, moving you away from the fight or flight state. It also has an effect on a part of the brain known as the amygdala, which plays a role in determining mood – laughter can move you out of the anxiety state.
If you are in early recovery, there will be a lot of serious work you need to do to build a solid sobriety. Taking this work seriously is important, but you do not want to take yourself too seriously. If you do, it just uses up too much of your energy and means you will not be able to enjoy this new life as much as you should. When you are laughing, you are not taking yourself too seriously; the more you do this, the better it is going to be for you.
There is plenty of evidence to support the idea that laughter eases the symptoms of depression. It works because it encourages a positive state of mind and changes the chemistry of your brain. As already mentioned above, laughter also moves your body out of the ‘fight or flight’ response, and this will lessen the symptoms of depression as well.
Laughter is one of the best stress busters you can find, and it is the simplest to use. Stress puts your body into a state of high alertness, but laughter moves you out of this state. You may also find that after an episode of laughter, your problems feel far less threatening. Stress has the habit of causing you to make mountains out of molehills but laughter does the opposite.
If you have ever been to a 12-step meeting, you will probably have heard the advice to ‘fake it to make it’. Even if you do not feel in a particularly good mood, you can trick yourself into being more positive just by laughing. This simple tool can be effective even on your darkest day – for example, ‘gallows humour’ refers to how people can use laughter to make things easier even when the situation appears hopeless.
Laughter therapy refers to various techniques that can be used to help you benefit from the power of laughter. If you have seen the movie Patch Adams starring Robin Williams, you can see one powerful example of how this works – in this film he dressed up as a clown to make patients in a hospital laugh. Basically, anything that can make you laugh can be viewed as being part of this therapy. This can include things such as watching your favourite comedy shows or listening to jokes.